It’s not just Oliver Battersby’s family reeling from the lad having an incurable illness, the sad news is also affecting other residents of Coronation Street as it reminds them of their own tragic pasts they’ve tried to bury.
Rovers Return landlady Jenny Connor (Sally Ann Matthews) was told about the devastating mitochondrial disease diagnosis and opened up to barmaid, and Oliver’s half-sister, Emma Brooker (Alexandra Mardell) about how it brought back painful memories of when she lost her son seven years ago.
Emotional Jenny recounted how the death of little Tom, aged four, left her bereft and gave her a painful insight into how Leanne Battersby and Steve McDonald must be feeling about the possibility of losing their child.
The incident actually occurred off-screen, during the 22 years Jenny was absent from Weatherfield between 1993 and 2015. When the character returned she was secretive about her ‘missing years’ and obviously had something big to hide, but her mental state unravelled as she became obsessed with then-boyfriend Kevin Webster’s young son Jack Webster who she eventually kidnapped.
Troubled Jenny was tracked down to a flat where she was manically throwing a birthday party for Jack, who she was calling ‘Tom’ and was so disturbed by grief she believed Kev’s lad was the son she had lost a few years earlier, or could somehow be a replacement.
Backstory told us Jenny was married to Sean Midgeley, and their son Tom had drowned in a paddling pool while his mum left him unattended for a split second. She still blamed herself for his death.
As Kevin and the authorities found her attempting to jump from the apartment balcony with Jack, remorseful Jenny broke down in tears, returned Jack to safety and was subsequently sectioned.
The following year, stepmum Rita Tanner tracked Jenny down to find her out of hospital but struggling on her own, and brought her back to the street. Initially receiving a frosty reception from Kevin, Jenny was redeemed when she rescued young Jack from a speeding tram during a trip to Blackpool – with echoes of her evil father Alan Bradley’s death-by-tram back in 1989.
Kev forgave her for the abduction incident, Jenny got a degree of closure on her grief for Tom, found love with factory boss Johnny Connor and is now at the heart of the community as the local landlady. But as she admits to Emma, the memory of her little boy is always there – beneath the surface…